Syria’s lawmakers on Wednesday completed voting for their preferred presidential candidate as nominations closed ahead of next month’s polls, which are expected to return Bashar al-Assad for a fourth term.
Fifty one Syrians, including seven women, had submitted their names before a constitutional deadline passed on Wednesday, the official SANA news agency said.
In order to run, they need to garner support from at least 35 members of the 250-seat parliament, which is dominated by Assad’s Baath party.
Lawmakers are only allowed to endorse one candidate. “The process for lawmakers to endorse candidates for presidential polls has ended,” SANA said.
“The voting box has been closed and sealed,” it added. The names of approved candidates will now be sent to the high constitutional court, which will announce the final list of contenders at an unspecified date.
The May 26 election will be the second since the start of a decade-long conflict that has killed over 388,000 people and forced more than half of Syria’s pre-war population from their homes.
Damascus has invited lawmakers from allied countries such Russia, Iran, China, Venezuela and Cuba to observe the electoral process, SANA said.
With the exception of Assad, who has been in power for 21 years, the contenders are mostly little-known figures who are unlikely to mount a serious challenge.
Electoral law stipulates that candidates need to have lived in Syria continuously for at least the past decade, ruling out all exiled opposition figures.
Assad was elected by referendum in 2000 and 2007.
For the first multi-candidate poll in 2014, only two candidates besides Assad out of 24 applicants were allowed to run.
Syria is grappling with a severe economic crisis that has seen the value of the pound plummet against the dollar on the black market.
Assad took power following the death of his father Hafez, who ruled for three decades.